Liberian English

Liberia is officially an English speaking country. When I first got here back in 2004, though, I realized quickly that ‘English’ is subjective. Liberian English is almost a completely different language. t has its roots in English, of course, but the pronunciation (or lack thereof) is sometimes completely foreign, and speech is peppered with some very colorful phrases. My favorites include ‘For true?’ (are you serious?), “how da body?’ (how are you?), ‘whywoma‘ (white woman – called out by all children, and even adults, every time I walk down the road), ‘are you getting me?’ (do you understand?), and one of my most commonly used, ‘it’s not easy-o!’.

Most of the time I feel like I am doing pretty well with the Liberian English – I can follow a long conversation with local villagers, and they can even understand me most of the time. But then I’ll say something and be greeted only with blank stares, and I’ll look to my Liberian colleagues to translate for me. While most of the staff that I work with and people I come in contact are fluent in both American English and Liberian, they can also make sure that I don’t understand a word if they want! It’s amazing that even after a year here that I can be so lost sometimes…

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